UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Get Adobe Reader

Environmental Policy


History of the process: from Dobris to Astana

(1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th)

Seventh Ministerial Conference "Environment For Europe"
Astana, Kazakhstan, 21-23 September 2011

The Seventh Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” is scheduled to take place in Astana (Kazakhstan) from 21 to 23 September 2011. The information on the preparatory process is available here.

Sixth Ministerial Conference "Environment For Europe"
Belgrade, Serbia, 10-12 October 2007

The Sixth Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" took place in Belgrade (Serbia) from 10 to 12 October 2007. Ministers and high-level officials from 51 UNECE member States and the European Commission, international organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders discussed progress achieved in the implementation of environmental policies since the Kiev Conference in 2003, capacity building and partnerships as well as the future of the "Environment for Europe" process.

The Ministerial Declaration (En, Fr, Ru) adopted by acclamation underlined that "the EfE process is a valuable response to the common intention of the UNECE member States to improve the environment throughout the region, contributing to sustainable development which may in turn contribute to poverty eradication, to improving the quality of life and to a safer world."

Ministers and Heads of delegation committed to intensify efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to put in effect the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

A number of reports such as on the implementation of UNECE multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), on Critical issues in implementation of environmental policies highlighted by the UNECE EPR programme, and on Policies for a better environment: progress in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia were presented at the Conference.

Various initiatives including the Belgrade Initiative on regional cooperation of interested South-Eastern European countries in the field of climate change, the Central Asian initiative on Sustainable Development, initiative on Strategic Environmental Assessment, and the Guiding principles of effective environmental permitting systems were noted with interest by the Confenrece.

Ministers and Heads of delegation UNECE member States and of the European Commission endorsed and called for the adoption and full implementation of the UNECE Recommendations on environmental indicators and indicator-based assessments, and the Guidelines for enterprise monitoring for countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. They noted with appreciation the First assessment of transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters in the UNECE region and invited the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention to prepare the second assessment of transboundary waters.

Two special sessions: a joint session of environment and education ministers from member States that adopted the UNECE Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development in Vilnius (March 2005), and other interested member States; and a roundtable of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and ministers from interested member States of the Council of Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) and the European ECO-Forum were held.

A milestone decision was taken to reform the EfE process in order to ensure that a future EfE process remains appropriate for, and fully aligned with, the needs of the UNECE region and the evolving political and economic landscape as well as the environmental priorities of the region.

The Conference concluded with the circulation of the Chair’s Summary (En, Fr, Ru), reflecting results of the discussions of the Ministers.

Further information on the Belgrade Conference, including a full list of documents (En, Fr, Ru), may be found here.

Fifth Ministerial Conference "Environment For Europe"
Kiev, Ukraine, 21-23 May 2003

The Fifth Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" took place in Kiev (Ukraine) from 21 to 23 May 2003. It concluded with the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration (En, Fr, Ru), which underlined the importance of the EfE process as a tool to promote environmental protection and sustainable development in the region, thus contributing to wider peace and security. Environment Ministers and Heads of delegation from 51 countries in the UNECE region and the Representative of the European Commission emphasized their common goals with respect to the environment and highlighted their common dedication to cooperating in achieving high standards of environmental protection.

During the Conference, three Protocols to Conventions of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe were adopted and opened for signature.

The Ministers and Heads of delegation also endorsed the Guidelines for Strengthening Compliance with and Implementation of MEAs in the UNECE region.

Governments of all seven countries of the Carpathian region adopted a Convention on Environment Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians, which was opened for signature on 22 May and signed by Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia and Ukraine.

The Kiev Conference adopted a groundbreaking Environment Strategy for Countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia and applauded the efforts of the Central Asian States to develop the Central Asian Initiative on Environment, Water and Security, “Invitation to Partnership.”

Ministers and Heads of Delegation reaffirmed their support to the Environmental Performance Review Programme of UNECE and decided that the programme should continue. They called upon the European Environment Agency to prepare a fourth assessment report for the next ministerial conference, building on new partnerships, especially with UNECE and UNEP, and they expressed their support of the UNECE Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and its activities. A number of other decisions were taken related to energy for sustainable development, water for sustainable development, biodiversity and education.

On the second day of the Conference, a special session between Ministers and environmental citizens’ organizations was held on “Environmental Policy Integration.” Three important issues were jointly addressed: letting the market work for the environment; agriculture as an example of sectoral policy integration; and overcoming institutional weaknesses that prevent integration.

Fourth Ministerial Conference "Environment For Europe"
Aarhus, Denmark, 23-25 June 1998

The Fourth Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" took place in Aarhus (Denmark) from 23 to 25 June 1998. Fifty-two ECE member States were represented. The Ministers and Heads of Delegation adopted the Ministerial Declaration. The following summary is provided in the Report of the Fourth Ministerial Conference (En, Fr, Ru).

"Europe's Environment: The Second Assessment" identifying the main areas of achievement and concern in the state of the European environment set the scene for the Conference. Based on its findings, the Ministers decided to strengthen support within the "Environment for Europe" process for the newly independent States and those countries of central and eastern Europe that were not part of the European Union's accession process.

The Ministerial Conference adopted the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. It was signed by representatives of thirty-five countries and the European Community. The Ministers also adopted the Resolution on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.

An independent NGO session on "Strengthening Participatory Democracy for Sustainable Development" took place within the framework of the Conference. Two new Protocols to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, on Heavy Metals and on Persistent Organic Pollutants, were adopted and signed by 33 countries and the European Community.

The Ministers also adopted the Ministerial Declaration on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.

The Declaration on Persistent Organic Pollutants was endorsed by representatives of 18 countries and the European Community.

The Ministers endorsed the Pan-European Strategy to Phase Out Leaded Petrol. In addition, 32 countries signed the Declaration on the Phase-out of Added Lead in Petrol. The Ministers endorsed the Resolution on Biological and Landscape Diversity and agreed to strengthen the process of integrating biodiversity and landscape conservation objectives into sectoral policies. Environmental financing was considered to be one of the most significant challenges remaining.

The Ministers agreed to facilitate and support the implementation of effective environmental management in enterprises, and confirmed their willingness to establish a dialogue with the business community on a more permanent footing. The Ministers also endorsed the Policy Statement on Energy Efficiency and welcomed the Guidelines on Energy Conservation in Europe.

The Ministers decided that the "Environment for Europe" process should continue with the same institutional arrangements and that the next ministerial conference would take place in 2002, preferably in a newly independent State. They agreed that the decision on the host country would be taken by the end of 1998. The Ministerial Declaration (En, Fr, Ru)

Third Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe"
Sofia, 23 - 25 October 1995

The Third Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" was held in Sofia (Bulgaria), from 23 to 25 October 1995. It was attended by Ministers of Environment from 49 countries from Europe, North America and Central Asia (the UN/ECE region) and from Australia, Japan and Mexico. A representative of the European Communities also attended.

The agenda of this Conference was already decided upon at by the Ministers at the second Conference in Lucerne, 1993, to include a review of the implementation of the Environmental Action Programme for Central and Eastern Europe and the further development of the Environmental Programme for Europe. The Conference Agenda also included subjects such as industry and environment, finance, and the setting of new priorities.

In the Ministerial Declaration (En, Fr, Ru), adopted on 25 October 1995, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation in the field of environmental protection in Europe, based on the principles decided upon at the Second Conference in Lucerne. They underlined the urgent need for further integration of environmental considerations into all sectorial policies, so that economic growth takes place in accordance with principles of sustainable development. The key issues contained in the declaration were as follows (the main conclusions under each heading can be found in the full text of the Declaration):

(a) Implementation of the Environmental Action Programme for central and eastern Europe (EAP);
(b) Environmental financing in central and eastern European countries;
(c) Business, industry and environment;
(d) Biological and landscape diversity;
(e) Environmental and nuclear issues;
(f) Environmental Programme for Europe;
(g) Public participation;
(h) Regional Environmental Centres, and
(i) Environmental conventions.

As for future action, the Ministers agreed that the "Environment for Europe" process remains essential as a political framework for cooperation in the field of environmental protection in Europe. The structure of the process must enable all countries of the European region to play a full and equal part and take account of related activities at the pan-European level, notably on environment and health, environment and transport, and sustainable management of forests, in order to create synergies and avoid duplication of efforts. The following concrete actions were recommended:

The ECE Committee on Environmental Policy should screen the Environmental Programme for Europe in order to make proposals for concrete priority actions;

A regional Convention on Public Participation should be developed with appropriate involvement of NGOs;

The EAP Task Force and the PPC should continue their work;

The follow-up of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy should be pursued;The European Environment Agency should carry out further work on the pan-European state of the environment assessment.

The Ministers acknowledged the large extent of work done to date in the framework of the "Environment for Europe" process and the important role of the Economic Commission for Europe in overseeing it in close cooperation with relevant agencies. In view of the preparations for the fourth Conference, the Ministers agreed to simplify and streamline this complex process. They recommended that a preparatory Ad Hoc Working Group of Senior Officials be established at the next meeting of the ECE Committee on Environmental Policy. Furthermore, an Executive Committee should be established to prepare the work of this Working Group, composed of three senior officials from the central and eastern European countries and three senior officials from the western European countries. Denmark's offer to host the next Conference in 1998 was welcomed.

Second Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe"
Lucerne, 28 - 30 April 1993

The Second Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" was held in Lucerne (Switzerland), in April 1993. It brought together Ministers and senior officials from 45 European countries and from Canada, Israel, Japan and the United States, together with the European Commissioner for Environment, and other international organizations' representatives.

The Declaration (En, Fr, Ru) adopted by the Ministers on 30 April 1993 set out the political dimension of what the Conference called the Environment for Europe process, which aimed at harmonizing environmental quality and policies on the continent, and to secure its peace, stability and sustainable development.

The Lucerne Conference also endorsed the broad strategy contained in the Environmental Action Programme for Central and Eastern Europe (EAP) and set up a Task Force to implement the Programme. The Work Programme of the Task Force consists of four core activities: helping all central and eastern European countries to develop their own national environmental action plans (NEAPs); running training programmes; involving the private sector; and improving the management of priority conservation areas. Furthermore the Conference decided to establish a Project Preparation Committee to focus on environmental investments as a networking mechanism to improve coordination between international financial institutions and donors wanting to invest in environmental protection in central and eastern Europe.

The Lucerne Conference also endorsed the ECE report on Elements for a Long-term Environmental Programme for Europe. This identified seven elements as important policy tools for attaining common high standards, technology cooperation; integrated pollution prevention and control; economic instruments; national environmental performance reviews; environmental information; public participation; and international legal instruments.

Furthermore, the Conference endorsed the Report on International Legal Instruments of 2nd April 1993 . This report called for effective monitoring as well as improvement of the implementation of, and compliance with, international legal instruments in the field of environment.

Finally, the Lucerne Conference welcomed the initiative of the Council of Europe to declare 1995 European Nature Conservation Year.

First Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe"
Dobris Castle, 21 - 23 June 1991

The First Ministerial Conference, within the "Environment for Europe" process was held in 1991 at Dobris Castle in the then Czechoslovakia. Environment Ministers from 34 European countries, the United States, Brazil, Japan, various UN bodies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions were present. The Commissioner for the Environment of the Commission of the European Communities were also present at the Conference. The conference discussed ways of strengthening cooperation to protect and improve the environment, and of long term strategies toward an environmental programme for Europe.

A set of basic guidelines for a Pan-European cooperation strategy was laid down. They include: need for intensified cooperation, introduction of ecological aspects in the process of transition of economies in central and eastern Europe; promotion of environmental considerations by financial and economic assistance; assistance to improve environment-related health conditions; and finally that each country shall bear responsibility for global environmental problems. The discussions resulted in a set of Conclusions of the Conference, in which the Ministers and the Commissioner addressed several issues of great importance to the further development of the "Environment for Europe" process. Furthermore, they called on the Commission of European Communities to prepare in cooperation with UN/ECE, a report describing the state of the environment in Europe (the later "Europe's Environment: the Dobris Assessment" of 1995). The need to develop an environmental programme for Europe in the light of this report was underlined. The programme would serve as the framework to improve coordination of national and international efforts in Europe, though focusing on central and eastern Europe.(Conclusions of the Dobris Conference)